Mindfulness Meditation for spiritual, emotional, & physical well-being

Sitting at my desk, writing about mindfulness.
My husband comes over and hands me a bowl of ice cream
– two flavors with berries added.
I gladly take it from him and eat.
All the while thinking about the page I’m writing
– about mindfulness.
Finished my ice cream.
Looked at the empty bowl in my hand.
Realized I was so busy thinking about mindfulness
that I hardly tasted it.
I remember a couple of little berry seeds
got stuck in my teeth.

                                                          Me

…a “user friendly” meditative method for transforming a “cluttered” mind into a peaceful inner state of awareness, thereby creating “space” to sense Divine Inspiration. 

Natan Ophir

…helps improve our concentration and reduce ruminative thinking that contributes to the high levels of stress that is so prevalent in our society.

Jon  Kabat-Zinn

I first learned about the concept of mindfulness, not long after we made aliyah, when my husband, Andy, and I attended meditation workshops in Jerusalem led by Dr. Nathan Ophir. We were introduced to several different meditative practices, one of them being mindfulness, used to quiet the mind as practiced by the Admor of Piaseczno. I was quite interested in this particular form of meditation since I have a very cluttered mind and thought it would be quite a relief to declutter and destress.

We practiced meditation at the Haas Promenade overlooking the Temple Mount. Andy is behind me and Dr. Ophir is on the left.

According to Dr. Ophir:

 The “Quieting Technique” of the Admor of Piaseczno is a “user friendly” meditative method for transforming a “cluttered” mind into a peaceful inner state of awareness, thereby creating “space” to sense Divine Inspiration. The Admor suggests letting thoughts flow spontaneously (etameditation) and non-attached, non-judgmental observation of inner ruminations and sensations (meta-cognition).

The method is to enter gently into a “near dream state”. He uses the metaphor of a broomstick that sweeps away the mundane stream of thoughts that preoccupy the mind, and thus facilitates a heightened ability for tranquil introspection, mental imagery and inner awareness. From the perspective of modern meditation research, this means reducing irrelevant synaptic clutter and disengaging from common modes of attention by entering a hypnagogic state. The Admor’s goal is to develop a soft form of non-ego focus creating room for a taste (1/60th) of prophetic inspiration.

Poster What Works in Meditation

What “Works” in Meditation & Why?

Dr. Ophir defines Jewish Meditation as he uses it to  “refer to techniques that are based both on the neuropsychology of meditation research and on Jewish sources.”

It has been found that meditation enhances brain function due to the brain’s “plasticity”. The cortex associated with working memory and executive decision making was found to be as large for meditating 50-years old as for 25-year olds. Usually there is a decline as the cortex gets smaller. It was also found that the amygdala, the part of the brain responsible for the fight-or-flight reaction under stress, decreased in proportion to the reduction in stress that individuals reported after practicing mindfulness meditation.

In the following video, Sara Lazar, a neuroscientist, explains how meditation can reshape our brains:

[youtube https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=m8rRzTtP7Tc?feature=player_detailpage]

I recall well my encounter with the Dalai Lama in 1999 when he visited Israel to learn about Jewish spiritual survival techniques and I was teaching graduate students in Chinese history at Hebrew University.  At one point, the Dalai Lama was challenged by a member of the audience: “Why do you steal our children?” Clearly, this person was referring to the many “JuBu”s—highly educated (often well heeled) Jewish young men and women who are taken by and support Tibetan Buddhist institutions in the West. The Dailai’s answer rings powerfully in my ears even today: “If only you were to open to them the deep wellsprings of your tradition, they would have nothing to learn from me!”

Excerpted from Prof. Vera Schwarcz’s testimonial on Jewish Meditation

Mindfulness meditation, besides being a Jewish practice, is also associated with Buddhist meditative traditions. In recent years it has also become a secular practice valued for promoting both emotional and physical wellness.

“The Stress Reduction Program became my life line — It literally saved my life. One can find peace and calm in the middle of chaos and confusion.” – Amy

“I never thought once I started living in constant pain that I would ever be able to have peace of mind and enjoy life again. Thank you for proving me wrong.” – Elaine

University of Massachusetts Center for Mindfulness

Jon Kabat-Zinn, perhaps the most well-known figure in the field of mindfulness meditation, explains that our minds are ordinarily all over the place, reviewing the past or considering the future, but we are never really living in the present, to our detriment.

Jon Kabat-Zinn has described mindfulness as paying attention to the present moment with intention, while letting go of judgment, as if our life depends on it. The present is the only real moment we have. And, in fact, our life may actually depend on it. Among its many benefits, mindfulness meditation has actually been proven to increase telomerase, the ‘caps’ at the end of our genes, which, in turn, can reduce cell damage and lengthen our lives. In addition, research demonstrates that mindfulness bolsters our immune system, making us better able to fight off diseases, from the flu to cancer. Mindfulness helps improve our concentration and reduce ruminative thinking that contributes to the high levels of stress that is so prevalent in our society.

Psychalive

[youtube https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=shPI6A2Pq2E?feature=player_detailpage&w=640&h=360]

In 1979 Kabat-Zinn introduced mindfulness meditation in the University of Massachusetts Medical School and developed an eight-week program called Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction (MBSR) that is used successfully at the University Medical School’s Center for Mindfulness as well as in clinics and by individuals throughout the United States and around the world.

Mindfulness Based Stress Reduction brings together mindfulness meditation and yoga…  The mind is known to be a factor in stress and stress-related disorders, and meditation has been shown to positively effect a range of autonomic physiological processes, such as lowering blood pressure and reducing overall arousal and emotional reactivity. In addition to mindfulness practices, MBSR uses yoga to help reverse the prevalence of disuse atrophy from our culture’s largely sedentary lifestyle, especially for those with pain and chronic illnesses. The program brings meditation and yoga together so that the virtues of both can be experienced simultaneously .

Experience mindfulness meditation with the following video:

[youtube https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4vgKzXdwtRE?feature=player_detailpage&w=640&h=360]

Watch the following lecture given by Jon Kabat-Zinn introducing the topic of mindfulness and showing how mindfulness can help us improve the quality of our lives:

[youtube https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_If4a-gHg_I?feature=player_detailpage&w=640&h=360]

The  Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction program is offered free online here for those who cannot attend an actual program.

The Mindfulness Based Stress Reduction program is offered in Israel, in English or Hebrew, by Dina Wyshogrod, Ph.D., Dr.Dina@breathedeep.net, or call 02-672-7261 (Press 1# to leave a message on her extension). She can be heard here.

For more information:
Greater Good: the science of a meaningful life
Psychalive

 

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